The former President of the Republic was found guilty, Thursday, September 30, of “Illegal financing” of his 2012 presidential campaign, and was sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence will be adjusted to house arrest under electronic surveillance. Pascale Robert-Diard, judicial columnist at World, who followed the whole trial, answered your questions.
Chris75: What evidence do judges rely on to justify the conviction?
The court considered that Nicolas Sarkozy had both ” consciousness “ and ” willingness “ exceed the limit on election expenses. He added : “Nicolas Sarkozy was aware of the existence of the legal ceiling. It was not his first campaign. He had been warned of the risk of overtaking ”, by two notes drawn up by the chartered accountants.
The court also notes that, while the ceilings were already exceeded, “Nicolas Sarkozy [avait] continued to organize meetings under the same conditions ”. The court finally underlines that the former President of the Republic, candidate for his re-election, had “Willfully failed to exercise control” on the campaign expenses he was going to declare.
Polo: Will Mr Sarkozy’s campaign accounts be invalidated? In this case, who should bear the cost of the delisting?
The overrun has already been invalidated by a decision of the Constitutional Council of July 2013, which considered that “Exceeding the ceiling” amounted to 466,118 euros more than the authorized amount.
Nicolas Sarkozy had, moreover, launched at the same time the “Sarkothon”, which had made it possible to raise “12 million euros to reimburse” the debt of the party, which at the time was called the UMP. At trial, he also said he paid “350,000 euros of [sa] few “. The former president also relied on this first decision of the Constitutional Council and on this reimbursement to contest the criminal proceedings against him. He considered that he had already been tried and could not be judged another time, according to the principle of not twice in the same. The court rejected “The exception of nullity” that he had raised about it.
Eric: Could you clarify for us what are the conditions for prison sentences to be arranged and executed under electronic surveillance?
This arrangement of prison sentences has been modified by the law of 23 March 2019. It provides that for the penalties “Greater than six months and less than or equal to one year’s imprisonment”, the tribunal “Must decide, if the personality and the situation of the convicted person allow it, that the sentence will be carried out in whole or in part under the regime of home detention under electronic surveillance, semi-liberty or outside placement”.
On the other hand, the court did not ask for the immediate application of the placement under an electronic bracelet. It would therefore seem that the appeal that Nicolas Sarkozy immediately lodged suspends the measure. We say this in the conditional because this system of penalties being of recent application, the jurists whom we consulted are not all of the same opinion.
Sabine: Can you tell us why Mr. Sarkozy’s collaborators receive more severe sentences than him? You would expect the person at the top of the pyramid to take more than the others, right?
The answer is simple. Nicolas Sarkozy, is the one who incurred the least heavy sentence, one year of imprisonment and a 3,750 euro fine for “Illegal campaign financing” for the sole purpose of exceeding the ceiling for electoral expenses provided for in article 113-1-3 of the electoral code. The court therefore condemned him to the maximum of the penalty incurred.
His former employees, or former employees of the UMP, who were prosecuted for “swindle” or complicity, “breach of trust” or concealment of breach of trust, forgery or use of forgery or complicity in illegal financing, they incurred, sentences of at least five years.
It should also be noted that article 113-1-3 of the electoral code, on the basis of which Nicolas Sarkozy was prosecuted, did not provide for an additional penalty of ineligibility or prohibition of the right to vote, unlike the offenses alleged against the other defendants.
Jessie: Are there any convictions to pay fines in addition to prison terms?
The court has indeed pronounced fines ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 euros. Those of 100,000 euros were pronounced against the four managers of the company Event & Cie, and its subsidiary Bygmalion, Bastien Millot, Guy Alvès, Sébastien Borivent, and Franck Attal. The fines of 60,000 euros were pronounced against the lawyer Philippe Blanchetier, treasurer of the financing association, and Marc Leblanc, one of the two chartered accountants.
For these defendants, the heaviest sanction is not the fine but the ban on exercising their professional activity for two years, which was pronounced against both the lawyer and the two chartered accountants. Here again, let us specify that this additional penalty does not apply until the decision is final.
Pablo: Is this sentence “exorbitant”, as some right-wing officials denounce it? Is this the first time that a President of the Republic has received such a serious sentence?
It should first be noted that all the sentences pronounced by the court are higher than those which had been requested. The two prosecutors, Nicolas Baietto and Vanessa Perrée, had requested, on June 18, 2021, only suspended sentences against all the defendants, with the exception of Nicolas Sarkozy, against whom they had requested one year in prison, including six months closed. The court therefore went beyond the requisitions by pronouncing, against the majority of the defendants, mixed sentences including a firm part to be executed under an electronic bracelet.
This is the first time that Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced as President of the Republic and it is for this reason that this decision is very important. In the case of eavesdropping, say « Bismuth », Nicolas Sarkozy is no longer president at the time of the offenses with which he is accused. Remember, for the record, that he was sentenced in this case to three years, one of which is firm, but that he appealed.
Etiennette: And Cope? He didn’t know, right?
He had only been called as a witness in court. In its judgment, the court reaffirms, as Judge Tournaire had done, that the investigation “Does not allow to establish” that Jean-François Copé “Was aware of or participated in the fraudulent system”.
NC: As it is the second sentence, if following the appeal of the first sentence, there was again a suspended sentence, Mr. Sarkozy should also serve it?
The stay does not fall until a new offense is committed after the first conviction. The reprieve is considered a sword of Damocles over the defendants. It is therefore revoked only if the accused commits an offense again and not if he is convicted of an offense committed previously.
Vincent Zimmermann: Do you think that these condemnations will finally clean up and moralize the next electoral campaign?
What is certain is that this judgment, which comes a few months before the opening of a presidential campaign, sounds like a warning to all the candidates. To all, justice says that now times have changed, that the time when a President of the Constitutional Council “arranged” to validate clearly illegal accounts (those of Jacques Chirac in 1995) is over.
This judgment also says that it will be difficult in the future, for all those who have a title in the organization chart of a campaign, not to take their share of responsibility. In the Bygmalion affair, only one defendant from the campaign team at large assumed responsibility: Jérôme Lavrilleux.
All the others, the director of the campaign of Mr. Sarkozy, Guillaume Lambert, and several employees of the UMP claimed either to have known nothing, or to have served only as a transmission belt, or to have had a title that did not did not correspond to the reality of their functions. To each the court reminds that when we take up functions, we must assume them.
Finally, and above all, to the address of Nicolas Sarkozy, who claimed to have ignored everything about the overflow of accounts and the fraudulent system put in place to conceal it, the court observed that “These crimes were committed not during an electoral campaign, but for the benefit of the campaign of a President of the Republic in office, candidate for his own renewal”.